I’ve been wanting to post more poetry and a non-Punk Globe interview on this blog for a while. In honor of my cousin Janis’ passing 43 years ago today, here’s a poem in the shape of an interview. It’s one of 24 poems in my chapbook, “Hassidic Witch Murder,” which will be out as soon as Jamie and I scrape together the funds to release it. In the meantime, read this, listen to some Janis, and don’t worry bout nothin.
An Interview with Janis Joplin
Tyler Vile: Hey Janis, thanks for doing this interview. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Janis Joplin: Well, I’m from Port Arthur, Texas. Been dead since ’70 and alive since ’43. I guess I’m still trying to figure it out.
Tyler Vile: Trying to figure what out?
Janis Joplin: Where I’ve been. I was in Texas, then San Francisco, then back to Texas. Now I’m everywhere, I mean there’s pictures of me everywhere. Can I ask you a question, Tyler?
Tyler Vile: Sure, what is it?
Janis Joplin: Do people still think I’m ugly?
Tyler Vile: No, Janis. Come on, you’re a fucking legend.
Janis Joplin: Aww, you’re sweet.
Tyler Vile: I guess it’s like Leonard Cohen said in his song about you, “We are ugly, but we have the music.”
Janis Joplin: Oh, Leonard wrote a song about me? When did that come out?
Tyler Vile: I think around ’74.
Janis Joplin: I didn’t think he’d remember that time we were in the Chelsea Hotel, man.
Tyler Vile: Yeah, that’s what the songs about. What do you remember most about that night?
Janis Joplin: God, it was so long ago. I don’t know, he kept trying to get me to read his poetry, I just wanted to be with him.
Tyler Vile: Did you ever want to write a song about that night?
Janis Joplin: No, we were just having fun. Maybe if he’d died and I’d lived I’d feel differently, you know.
Tyler Vile: Did you know Tex Watson was our cousin?
Janis Joplin: What?
Tyler Vile: Yeah, that guy from the Manson Family’s our cousin.
Janis Joplin: Shit. That explains a lot.
Tyler Vile: What do you mean?
Janis Joplin: I got worse shit in my blood than heroin.
Tyler Vile: You mean we?
Janis Joplin: Yeah, I guess.
Tyler Vile: Tex became a Born Again minister, did you ever have any feelings or beliefs about God?
Janis Joplin: I’ve been dead so damn long I forgot about God, was he uh, was he the guy who you made when you stuck plastic eyeballs into a potato? I think I’ve seen him once or twice. It was after I shot some dope, though, so I don’t remember.
Tyler Vile: Did he ever buy you that next round?
Janis Joplin: No, silly. It’s just a song.
Tyler Vile: Do you think that if you quit dope, you’d still be alive?
Janis Joplin: It’s hard to say. They wouldn’t be selling posters of me, I’d be fat and old. All these aging rock stars right now, it’s a joke. I ain’t gonna name names but there’s a few I wish was around here with me.
Tyler Vile: Around where?
Janis Joplin: Just fuckin around.
Tyler Vile: Do you miss being in front of crowds?
Janis Joplin: Some nights I do, but I’ve been forgetting the difference between day and night lately. I guess that doesn’t have much to do with performing, does it? I like to dance with people when they play my records, that’s the closest thing I get to playing live.
Tyler Vile: Woodstock has become huge in our culture since you left. What do you remember from it?
Janis Joplin: I liked the energy of that crowd. Everybody was stayin’ stoned and it was real nice. Glad y’all still enjoy it.
Tyler Vile: How was Richie Havens that day?
Janis Joplin: He was amazing, I’ve been waiting on him. Glad to see him here now.
Tyler Vile: Where?
Janis Joplin: You ever had the cosmic blues, Tyler?
Tyler Vile: I thought you spelled Kozmic with a K.
Janis Joplin: No, I know you’ve felt it. I’ve danced with you, baby doll. We’re dancing right now. Don’t ask me no more questions and let’s just dance.
Tyler Vile: Do you want me to put on “Kozmic Blues?”
Janis Joplin: No, make your own music. I mean, let’s make it right now.
Tyler Vile: Can you sing on paper?
Janis Joplin: I think you can.
Tyler Vile: You wrote “Mercedes Benz,” with Michael McClure and Bob Neuwirth, right? What was it like to write with those two?
Janis Joplin: You sing that out loud to yourself when you stretch. Does it matter how I wrote it? You can love it without knowing where it comes from.
Tyler Vile: But I wanna know where it comes from.
Janis Joplin: Okay, I’ll tell you. Deep down in our throats and our hands and our knees and our guts, there’s this thing called the blues. McClure and Neuwirth have it. So do you and so do I. McClure was one of the original Beats, you know.
Tyler Vile: Yeah, you’ve got it so strong that people still wish you were here.
Janis Joplin: I am here.
Tyler Vile: I know, but nobody sees you.
Janis Joplin: What do you mean? I can still hear the music.
Tyler Vile: Is the whole world a song?
Janis Joplin: If you’re like us, it is.
Tyler Vile: What do you mean, “like us?”
Janis Joplin: Emotional, spiritual, mushy-gooey, and loud. Real freaks, the kind of freaks people love. The kind of freaks they’d follow past the grave. The kind of freaks they also hate, the kind that never gave a shit in the first place but then started begging for love.
Tyler Vile: Thanks for the interview, Janis. Any last words for our readers?
Janis Joplin: It ain’t over yet, baby.
Here’s a bit of Janis doing what she was best at.